3,000 Nepalis Stage Peace March

Some 3,000 people from various religious groups in Nepal staged a peace march through the streets of the capital Kathmandu on Saturday calling for religious tolerance, sources reported. The procession came following riots directed at Muslim targets in response to the grisly killing of 12 Nepalese hostages by Islamic insurgents in Iraq.

"The peace marchers included Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists," one organizer, Hemanta Sharma, told a local news agency.

Demonstrators, taking advantage of the relaxation of a curfew imposed last week to quell the rioting, carried placards with slogans reading "Religious tolerance and national unity are Nepal's present need," witnesses said.

A group of people from various walks of life including artists, journalists, members of civil society and human rights activists separately held a peace meeting in the capital, lighting candles and praying for harmony.

The curfew has been in place in Kathmandu and Lalitpur on the southern outskirts of the capital since Wednesday to stop angry mobs that had attacked mosques and Muslim businesses after 12 Nepalese youths were killed by Islamic militants who had held them hostage since August 19.

During the unrest police opened fire to disperse an angry crowd that tried to storm the Egyptian embassy, which represents Iraqi interests in the Himalayan kingdom.

At least two people were killed and more than 50 injured in the clashes between demonstrators and riot police.

The 10-hour let-up in the curfew was to allow people to purchase food supplies and resume with their normal operations. On Sunday, authorities had relaxed the curfew for eight hours.

However, there were no reports of violence overnight Saturday, police said.